Jenna Hartley and Anne Neale organized an impressive and productive STEM in the Park experience at the EPA. They assembled a team of guest speaker scientists who described their contribution and utilization of the data maps included in the EnviroAtlas tool for educators.
I learned how to implement this data-rich, interactive tool to help students make informed decisions regarding environmental justice. The database offers over 500 science journals and articles connected to topics related to causation vs. correlation in environmental issues.
Our first speaker, Drew Pliant, was an expert in using remote sensing with the maps to track tree cover, socioeconomic data, grass cover, water sources and impervious sources in urban areas. He used this data to track the proliferation of the zika virus in urban environments. This information helped communities through collaboration with the Department of Health in targeting pest control in these “hot spot” regions.
We learned about some citizen science apps we could use as educators, including Citizenscience.gov, iNaturalist.org and Open Street Map. These are used by everyday citizens to upload images by location. The data is added to maps used to identify problems in specific locations.
John Darling shared his experience studying freshwater native biodiversity vulnerability to non-native species. That’s verbiage for studying invasive species, like the Nile Perch in Africa. He explained the social injustice of corporate fisheries moving into regions where local species were wiped out – over 300 species of the chiclid – by introducing a ‘meatier’ fish known as the Nile Perch. In addition to decimation of the chichlid species, local fishermen were pushed out of their generations-long livelihoods as fisherman in the region.
We spent time browsing the EnviroAtlas ourselves, thinking of ways to implement this with our own students. I had an idea to use this tool with our robotics team, who used it the very next day to supplement their research of health issues related to water source pollution. It’s rewarding to leave professional development with tools that are easily accessible and ready to implement right away. Our DigiLit Cyberkids team were making great connections to themselves and their communities using the EnviroAtlas.
Thanks to Jenna and her team for such a rich learning experience for educators!